Roland’s nags and nails: life as a farrier’s apprentice

  • It doesn’t get much more random than this. Last year I was running a software company, and now I’ve dedicated the next four years to being a farrier’s apprentice. This blog will chart the highs and lows of my apprenticeship and hopefully give some amusing insight into life as a farrier.

    Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Roland Thompson, I’m 39 and have a wife and daughter (just turned one), plus we’ve just found out we’re expecting again! Until recently I had my own small business producing computer software. The business was hit pretty hard in the recession, but it survived and has been ticking along for the past two years.

    My wife and I have always been around horses and they played a key part in our upbringing. In January 2010, I realised I was itching for some sense of purpose and fulfilment and I desperately did not want to be stuck behind a desk for the rest of my days.

    In May 2010, I put all the clues together and decided that I wanted to be a farrier. Luckily my wife couldn’t have been more excited for me, even though I’ll be earning minimum wage and our savings will be whittled away considerably.

    In June 2010 I began looking for an apprenticeship, which turned out to be most difficult thing imaginable! First of all, my GCSEs were out of date. It didn’t matter that I went all the way through school and university — my GCSEs were more than five years old so could not be accepted by the farrier apprenticeship program. So in July I sat my maths and English GCSE equivalent and passed. That was a relief — imagine if I hadn’t, that would have been very embarrassing!

    The next step was to pass my City in Guilds in Blacksmithing. Only once I had that, would I be accepted as an apprentice. I bought a gas forge and practiced at home, got some tuition from a world champion farrier, Richard Ellis and did a short course at Hereford college. In August 2010, I passed first time. Now I was set, except I had to find a farrier who was prepared to employ me for the duration of my four years of training.

    Amazingly, I was offered two apprenticeships and have accepted a position with Kris Parsons, who is based on the borders of Somerset, Devon and Dorset — a truly beautiful part of the world. I’m very lucky to be working with someone as active and progressive as Kris, who has a flourishing business.

    I will be charting the progress of my training here on the Horse & Hound website. I intend this blog to be informative, as well as providing an insight into the unlikely world of a 39 year-old apprentice farrier, who is definitely not fit enough to be performing farriery!

    Please tune in next Monday to find out how my first week as an apprentice farrier went.

    Until then,


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